How Are We Practicing Generosity?
Some of us assume generosity is when people donate millions of dollars or give away brand new cars. Our idea of practicing generosity could be doing something extravagant for our friends or family. It may be people giving expensive presents on special occasions or picking up the tab for elaborate trips.
We might see practicing generosity as how we make ourselves look better to other people. We like to think we can compensate for ignoring someone by demonstrating conspicuous generosity.
I see generosity differently. Practicing generosity is about sharing what we have.
Generosity is a spiritual practice. It is not about wanting to make ourselves look good or hoping other people will notice. Like hospitality, practicing generosity is how we behave when we are grateful for what we have received.
Being wealthy is not a requirement for sharing what we have. We do not need to have a lot of money to be generous.
Our generosity is not about how extravagant we are or how much we sacrifice. The first step in practicing generosity is recognizing what we are willing to share.
I know people who develop a spiritual practice of gratefulness. Each day they take time to acknowledge something for which they are thankful. Practicing generosity can be our next step in applying our gratitude in the world around us.
As we put generosity into practice each day we will begin to find new ways we can be generous.
Practicing Generosity With Our Time
Time is a precious resource for us, often more precious than anything else. There are so many things we would like to do, so many ways we could spend our time each day. Every one of us receives the same amount of time every day. Sharing our time is an essential aspect of practicing generosity.
Some of us like to believe we use our time wisely. We believe it is important to invest our precious hours in ways which will help us get where we would like to go. Many of us try to avoid interruptions and do not want to waste a moment of our time.
Others of us might be more relaxed. We get a little distracted with social media or other diversions. Our time is precious to us but we do not hold it so tightly. We do not see ourselves as mastering our time but allowing it to master us.
No matter how we relate to our time, sharing it with other people is part of practicing generosity.
People are thirsty for someone who pays attention. Sharing our time, even for a few moments, with someone else is a meaningful act of generosity.
Practicing generosity with our time reminds us about people who have shared their time with us. We remember people who encouraged us when we most needed it, or who simply listened.
Being generous with our time can make a difference in the lives of people around us, and in our lives.
Practicing Generosity With Our Experience
Most of the people I talk to do not ask me about what I studied in school. They rarely want to know what I learned about political science or law or public administration.
The people around us are not looking for theoretical answers. They are much less interested in formal explanations than in hearing what has worked for us. People want to know what our experience has taught us, not what we learned from a textbook or in a lecture hall.
The more we practice generosity in sharing our stories and experiences the more other people appreciate them. As we hear what has happened in each other’s lives we can see our own experiences more clearly.
One of the most encouraging aspects of spiritual life for me is sharing our stories with each other. Each of us has our own perspective on our experiences and only by sharing can we gain their benefits.
We begin to recognize even our time and our experiences are gifts of spiritual life. Practicing generosity helps us recognize there is nothing we have which has not been given to us.
It is easy for us to feel comfortable in what our culture tells us about what we have. We think we have earned what we have and we need to protect and defend it from people who want to take it away.
Some of us even believe we need to earn whatever spiritual life we can get.
All of life is a gift to us. We are filled with gratitude which we express by practicing generosity.
How Are We Practicing Generosity Today?
As we practice generosity we begin to experience it in new ways. We become generous with our money, our time, our experiences, and whatever we have been given.
What we have received is not for us to hold onto tightly, hoarding or defending it. We are grateful we have received what we have and look for new ways to share it.
One of the ways I am practicing generosity is by exploring new opportunities to be generous. For example, I am trying something new this year for my birthday, which is next weekend.
This year I am celebrating my birthday by raising money for the Mitzvah Circle Foundation. You can learn all about Mitzvah Circle, and my friend Fran Held, and how you can help them raise money on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/donate/1049811335411102/.
Thank you for practicing generosity.
Spiritual life draws us toward practicing generosity. Life is not about holding onto what we have been given. When we are practicing generosity we are about putting our gifts to work to help make a difference.
What keeps us from practicing generosity in our everyday lives?
Where can we begin practicing generosity this week?
[Image by winni3]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.